Suddenly I was flying through the air. I don’t remember hitting the tree. It happened too fast. I do remember my body flying over the handlebars and tumbling through the air. One flip, two flips. I think my eyes are closed. I could hear the four-wheeler tumbling behind me. I never wore a helmet riding it, and in typical Ben fashion no shirt either. I was wearing nothing more than a pair of shorts and a pair of boots.
As I flipped through the air at 40 mph, it seemed an oversight. Now open, my eyes highlighted the gravel road getting closer at an alarming rate. I’d managed to stretch my body out and stop the tumbling. I tucked my chin to the left side of my chest and rolled my right shoulder under just before it smashed into the ground.
I hit the ground and rolled over my rounded shoulder across my back to my left hip. It happened so smoothly at the end of the roll I came straight up to my feet at a run. After a couple of steps to slow down, I turned around still at a run to see the four-wheeler tumbling to a stop on its side. I ran down the hill to check on it. Everything had happened so fast that I didn’t have time to process how badly that could have gone. When it was all said and done I got away with some scraps from the gravel road and a back that was a little bit sore from the high-speed roll.
I can say without a doubt that being comfortable with the forward roll has saved me a lot of pain and suffering. Not all of it self-inflicted like the stupidity above. Something as simple as tripping and falling can be made a lot more pleasant with a forward roll.
Learning The Forward Roll
The forward roll can be an intimidating natural movement, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s no need to hurl yourself at the ground and figure it out by beating up your body! You can learn it sitting on the ground and it’s best rehearsed in reverse. If you want to master the forward roll, you should learn the backward roll first. The video above demonstrates the whole process.
You should also learn to roll progressively. Break the movement into parts. Step one is learning to rock. The focus here is keeping a good curve in your spine and staying centered over your spine. If you don’t have the abdominal strength and the coordination to control your rocking, then your forward roll will fall apart. It’s better to keep practicing rocking until it’s a solid movement rather than rushing to the next step.
Once you’re comfortable with rocking, it’s time to make the rock bigger. Now you’re going to practice bringing your feet past your head. Don’t bring them straight over though. You run the risk of hurting your neck and smacking your head on things! You need to move your head out of the way and you’re going to roll toward your shoulder.
Practice bringing your feet over your right shoulder and moving your head to the left side and then reverse it. You can use a little momentum to get the feel, but you should be able to do the movement slow and controlled. Remember, you’re rolling diagonally across your back not straight down the spine. You shoulder be rolling from right shoulder to left hip and left shoulder to right hip.
The next step is to keep pushing your feet past your shoulder until you start to roll over. You should end up face down on the ground at the end of the movement. Now walk your feet up and reverse the roll. Congratulations! You just did a front roll!
From here it’s just learning to use momentum while staying controlled and practicing catching the roll with your feet instead of just splatting on the ground. As you build your confidence you can practice your forward roll kneeling and standing. Eventually, you may even practice jumping into it! Good luck and happy rolling!
Take your time learning this one. It is without a doubt one of the most useful natural movements you will ever master!